On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FV-13-1120-07B.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Collester and C.S. Fisher.
Following a trial, a final restraining order (FRO) was entered in favor of plaintiff against her father pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 (the Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. In this appeal, defendant argues that the trial judge should have granted his motion for a new trial, claiming that he was prejudiced by defects in the process that led to the entry of the FRO. We reject these arguments and affirm.
The record reveals that plaintiff, who was then eighteen years old, filed a complaint pursuant to the Act. She alleged that on January 6, 2007, her father, a Jersey City police officer, assaulted her at her place of employment, an auto parts store in Hazlet.
The final hearing commenced on January 9, 2007. On that day Judge Ronald Lee Reisner heard testimony from both parties. Neither was represented by counsel.
Plaintiff described how she and defendant had argued outside and then inside the auto parts store. She testified that their heated discussion ended when defendant pushed her against a shelf with "his hands around my throat." Defendant then gave his version of what occurred. He testified that during the argument plaintiff "told me to go fuck myself," following which he "grabbed her on her shoulders," following which another employee physically intervened. After hearing this testimony, the judge adjourned the matter because he wanted to obtain photographs taken by the Hazlet Police Department.
On January 16, 2007, the court heard testimony from a Hazlet police officer, who described his involvement in the investigation and who authenticated photographs that were taken of plaintiff. The photographs, according to the judge's findings, revealed scratch marks and redness around plaintiff's neck.*fn1
Plaintiff also called Walter Anderson, another of the store's employees, who testified that he witnessed the parties' verbal argument and then saw defendant place his hands around plaintiff's neck and shoulder area. Anderson described how he intervened, how both he and defendant fell to the floor during the ensuing struggle, and how defendant grabbed and ripped Anderson's shirt around the collar. After they got up from the floor, defendant tackled Anderson and pinned him to the floor. Within a few minutes, the police arrived, separated defendant from Anderson, obtained statements, and photographed both plaintiff and the store.
At the conclusion of the second day's proceedings, Judge Reisner rendered a thorough oral decision in which he described in detail the circumstances that we have only briefly outlined. He found by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant committed a simple assault upon his daughter:
[Defendant] was angry over the tone of voice that she used. He thereafter confronted her, physically grabbed her throat. He did so intentionally.
. . . [T]he police officers' prompt response to the scene and photographs demonstrate the truthfulness of the plaintiff's statements. [Plaintiff's version was also corroborated by Anderson] who got in between the defendant and the plaintiff as well as [by] the photographs of the scene and the noticeable injuries to the plaintiff. All establish by a ...